Saturday, August 16, 2014

Advanced Class Guide: Early Thoughts

Well it's finally here. I bought the PDF on Thursday and tried to read through that but then gave in and bought the dead tree version yesterday from my FLGS. There is so much crunch in this book it is amazing. It has taken me two days to get through it although I'll happily admit that it will take months (or longer) to really play with all of the options. Herolab is updated with the product and I've just started testing things out.

There are lots of editing problems with this book. I don't usually have a great eye for detail so when even I notice lots of mistakes then there are lots of mistakes. Most of them are not critical like formatting mistakes or spelling mistakes but there were a couple instances where the crunch text is not logical (giving an ability at level 16 and then giving the upgrade at level 16, or incorrect entries in the level progression chart). For a book of this size with this much detail it is not surprising that a few mistakes slip through but there just seems to be more then usual (and some glaring ones like the cover).

Arcanist: At the beginning of the day fills their know spell slots from their spell book, can cast those spells as much as they want in any combination until their castings per level run out. grabs most of the flexibility from the wiz and the sorc. Has delayed casting like a sorc and gains exploits. Most of the exploits are pretty meh but there are a few really good ones like Counterspelling as an immediate action, Dimensional slide (short range teleport), or you can take a sorc bloodline and use points form the arcane reservoir to power it. The greater exploits upgrade these to be even better. I haven't built one in Herolab yet but seems really strong.

Bloodrager: Rather than nerf the strong bloodlines, they improved the weaker ones. The bloodrager is a very solid melee class comparable to the Barbarian for the top spot. The spell list is nearly perfect for the class. A well designed class.

Brawler: I had no interest in this class during the playtest but the final version has me intrigued. In the right kind of campaign this would be a great class to play. The brawler gets some very nice toys that might actually work (Knockout keyed to either str or dex), and is very flexible. Better than the base monk in pretty much every way imaginable. Built correctly this class can unload some pretty serious damage at high levels but suffers in the defense department. The brawler is unlikely to have great AC and has a poor will save. Both will be serious liabilities in most post level 10+ games.

Hunter: I really want to like this class but I am struggling to figure out how it holds its own compared to the druid. I tend to compare classes at levels 7 and 15. At 7, I think the Hunter is slightly superior but at 15 it's not even close and the druid is by far superior. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of teamwork feats. Most are very situational and I tend to forget to apply the bonus. Again the hunter really doesn't have the defenses to survive high level melee combat. A great class for a lower level campaign.

Investigator: or as I like to call it - better than the rogue. A great class for a low combat campaign (not adventure paths), this class has options out the wazoo. Very effective at it's niche because of it's flexibility. Between this and the Slayer there is no reason for anyone to ever play a rogue again. Another well done class but not my cup of tea since we almost always play Adventure Paths.

Shaman: This is a class that is going to take a while for me to really get the feel for. It has taken me years to really appreciate what the Oracle brings to the table and I suspect this class is similar. My early sense is that it is a replacement for the Witch. The Shaman gets most of my favorite hexes (Flight is notable absent) and a bunch of extra Hexes from their spirits. Their spell list is surprisingly versatile and could cover the party healer role quite well although sadly Heal is listed as 7th level instead of 6th.

Skald: I still don't see this class as more than an archetype for Bards. There really isn't anything wrong with it but it just feels very niche. Although the Dawnflower Dervish is still a more effective battle bard this comes close in effectiveness. For a group with lots of melee type classes this guy would be great, otherwise not so much. Being able to give your party Pounce is pretty awesome I admit.

Slayer: I've been a big fan of this class. In my opinion it works best as an archer because like many other classes it isn't likely to hold up well in high level melee combat. The class borrows or mimics a lot of the Rangers crunch but uses the Rogue's fluff. In general I don't like Sneak attack since it is very situational and a nice thing about the Slayer is that it has Sneak attack but doesn't need it. Studied Target is a great mechanic and although not as strong as Favored Enemy, it is not dependent on the DM and you can use it when you like - no limits! Between that and full BAB, a Slayer should have no trouble hitting his foes.

Swashbuckler: While this wasn't the mobile fighter many people hoped for, I think they did a good job with the flavor for this class. Not a massive damage dealer, the swashbuckler can still survive in combat with Opportune Parry. Charmed Life should be able to boost his saves enough to survive although they are limited by use per day. My test PC looks ok but to really get a feel for the Panache mechanic. The swashbuckler definitely needs a wide critical range weapon to be effective.

Warpriest: There is so much to this class. Most of the blessings are rather meh but again many of the Desna blessing are superior (many are cribbed from the Domain powers). Too many powers are activated by Swift actions. The Warpriest has the same problem as the battle cleric - spending too many rounds buffing to be effective. I'm still on the fence with this class. The character is rolled up looks ok but didn't really stand out form what any other class can do. It's like a slightly more caster, less martially paladin with no alignment restrictions. I admit I have not set one up as an archer so its possible that I am missing something there but so far I think I prefer a melee Inquisitor to a melee Warpriest. And what is up with 2 skill ranks per level for a non - Int based class? Yuck.

Archetypes and Class Options: There are too many here to go through all of them but a few did stand out for me.

Blade Adept: This is a terrible archetype for the Arcanist unless you were going to use it as entry into Eldritch Knight in which case it is actually really good.
Blood Arcanist really steps on the Sorcerer's toes by getting a full Bloodline.
White Mage: Sure an Arcanist can now cast a few Cure Spells. Is it worth it? Not really.

GreenRager: stands out because it is so bad. At level 13 you can cast Summon Nature's Ally IV. Why would you summon a 5 HD monster? Admittedly you only give up a couple bloodline feats for this but it is still pretty bad.
Primalist is really good. You can take either your Bloodline power or two Barbarian rage powers. Flexibility at no cost!

Mutagenic Brawler: A mutagen with the usual awesomeness, adds bonus damage, and sensory and movement bonuses. All it costs is Martial Flexibility and the AC bonus.
Shield Champion: You are now Captain America. Looks cool, not sure its optimal.

Order of the Beast: Wait, isn't there already an Order of the Beast? Yes there is.
Daring Champion: A Cavalier who swashbuckles. You can get some massive damage bonuses with this combination. Loses the Mount.

Nature Fang: Druid trades most of his Naturey stuff and WildShape for a Slayers Studied Target and Sneak Attack (although it doesn't say he actually gets a Slayers sneak attack progression - if this is not an error this archetype sucks.)

Mutation Warrior: Trade Armor Training for Mutagen. This is pretty good except the levels where you get the mutagen discoveries are poorly aligned so no Greater Mutagen until 15 and no Grand until 19. Oh well, 50% fortification at level 11 is nothing to sneeze at.

Bolt Ace: A gunslinger with a Crossbow. Less damage then a full fledged Composite Longbow Archer, and without the annoyance of having your weapon explode in your face. These actually make Crossbows pretty damn good and you get many of the same tricks that Gunslingers do. Less unbalancing than the Slinger but still useful.

Primal Companion Hunter: An animal companion with Eidolon evolutions. Sweet! what's this? If the pet dies, the Hunter gets the Evolutions? Even better!

Sanctified Slayer: So this trades Judgement for the Slayer's Studied Target, Sneak Attack Progression and 4 Slayer Talents (although these come late)? Sign me up. Yes, I don't like Sneak Attack but I like it a lot more when I have Improved Invisibility on my spell list.

Eldritch Scion: A magus with all of his stuff based on Cha and doesn't need a spell book.

Kata Master: A swashbuckling Monk? Cool!!! Wait a minute, all of his new powers are based off Cha making this archetype the most MAD archetype ever!! Who designed this POS? Seriously unless you play in a campaign where you roll for stats and your boyfriend is the DM no one is ever going to play this.

Hooded Champion: You can be Robin Hood! A ranger who is a duelist and an archer. Will be tough to find enough feats to keep both styles effective.

Animist: This Shaman can remove negative status effects with a high diplomacy role as she talks the spirits away. That's awesome!

Fated Champion: This archetype for the Skald is pretty good. A bonus to Initiative, an improvement to the Rage song, and a very expensive re-roll ability.

Mysterious Avenger: You are now Zoro!
Picaroon: I was hoping to get a swashbuckler archetype that would also grant weapon training so you could use either a sword or a gun effectively. This one comes close but isn't quite what I wanted. Guess I'll have to make a gunslinger that takes Slashing Grace.

Champion of the Faith: A warpriest that can smite! Too bad it is still keyed to Cha and requires two uses of Fervor to activate.
Sacred Fist: A monk Warpriest! While perhaps not as awesome as it seems this could be a lot of fun. A monk with delayed Cleric casting. Divine Power + Righteous Might

Exploiter Wizard. Trades a school for many of the Arcanist's tricks. Worth it!

Most of the new feats are very niche. Many are so situational as to be next to useless. Some are rendered useless to most classes by inexplicably having combat Expertise as a prerequisite. Some are just terrible no matter what, but a few are quite good. Here are some of my favorites.

Amateur Swashbuckler: Take this and the Opportune Parry deed. Now the Barbarian with the Falchion can parry too!

Animal Soul: Now all of those nice Druid buffs that are animal only can be cast on you! Too bad about the Animal Companion or Mount requirement. Animal Growth, Atavism, Steel Jaw.

Blooded Arcane Strike: A must have for Bloodragers. No longer must you spend your Swift action every turn on Arcane Strike.

Disheartening Display: They are shaken after Dazzled, now they are frightened after this Feat. Great if you can Dazzling display as a Free or Swift Action.

Divine Protection: Divine Grace for non-paladins. 5 ranks in Knowledge religion, ability to cast a 2nd level divine spell and either have a blessing, domain, or mystery class feature. Pretty much a no-brainer feat for any Oracle or Cleric that didn't dump Charisma.

Expanded Preparation: An extra spell slot at your highest level - for Arcanists.

Gruesome Slaughter/Killing Flourish: great for melee Slayers.

Merciless Butcher: Coup de Gras as a swift action. Requires Dastardly Finish and Studied Target so its acquired a bit late to be useful for a Slayer but would be pretty sweet in the hands of a Vivisectionist if he is facing off against lots of stunned opponents.

Pummeling Style: No matter how you interpret this Feat it is great. It it just applies to actual punches as the flavor text suggests it is great for Brawlers and Monks. If it applies to all weapons as the crunch suggests then this feat is insanely over powered. Combine all hits in one round into one blow. If any of the hits are confirmed critical hits then then entire thing is a critical. Crazy!

Pummeling Charge: You can Charge and then end the charge with a Pummeling Strike. AWESOME! It's super Pounce.

Slashing Grace: Dex to Damage for one handed slashing weapons. Yay! Wait a minute. You can't use Weapon Finesse with these weapons so you are still SOL unless you are using the Elven Curve Blade or the Aldori Dueling Sword. Oddly, there is no feat in this book allowing Dex to Damage for Rapiers or light weapons. Apparently it is coming in the next big book. Oops.

Steadfast Personality: Charisma modifier to Will saves vs Mind-Affecting Effects. Sweet since it stacks with Divine Protection. Great for non-divine casters.

Twist Away: Requires Evasion. Allows you to make Reflex saves in the place of Fortitude saves but leaves you staggered for a turn. Still very useful if you have a hopeless Fort save.

I haven't had a chance to go over all of the spells or magic items in great detail yet but no spells really jumped at me as being must haves. There were a few magic items.

Boots of the Battle Herald: 30 rounds of Greater Heroism a day. Wow.

Various Rings that expand the Summon Monster list. Cool idea.

 Brass Spider: Remote Disable Device or a bonus if up close.

Cape of Daring Deeds: great for Swashbucklers

Well that's it for now. Back to HeroLab to see what other awesome things there are to find.

**I keep finding more stuff so there may be some stealth edits as I add or change things. Sacred Fist is not as awesome as I hoped.

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